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Meals on a Hectic Schedule

Last post Thu, Sep 23 2010 9:45 AM by Lee. 13 replies.
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  • Mon, Sep 20 2010 9:33 AM

    • Brandy
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Wed, Mar 28 2007
    • Saving in South Mississippi
    • Posts 25,145

    Meals on a Hectic Schedule

    Some here have very demanding lives outside of the home or have things at home that keeps them busy. Even for those who have the time to be in their kitchens normally, there are chaotic days that don't allow for preparing time consuming meals.

    How do you prepare meals without turning to convenience foods or eating out?

    Give us your tips and check out the Dollar Stretcher article this week, It's All About Menu Planning.

    The Dollar Stretcher Community Manager

  • Mon, Sep 20 2010 10:14 AM In reply to

    Re: Meals on a Hectic Schedule

    That's a great article with lots of tips but personally, I can't plan a month ahead. I plan by the week and shop accordingly on the previous weekend taking into account what is in the pantry and freezer.

    I rely on my crock pot for several meals during the week. I also have several recipes that are easy and fast to prepare, as fast a preparing a box of mac and cheese or driving 20 minutes round trip to a fast food drive through. I work full days 3 days a week so cannot come home everynight and ask myself "what should I make?"

    This week, we have such a week. Tonight is a "free" night with no plans. But Tues, Wed, Thurs and Friday, one of us has something in the evening that will make meal time hectic. Tonight, I will prepare the crock pot for Tuesday's french dips. The kids and I can eat after we are home and DH can eat after his meeting. Tues night, I'll get out the meat to thaw for Wed and get a salad ready and wash and cut up veggies.

    Wednesday, I have a 6:00 class so I will have sloppy joes ready for my kiddos and DH to eat and I can eat after class. Sloppy Joes are one of my fast and easy meals. Served with a salad, a fruit or veggie (like carrot and celery sticks), it is a healthful meal, too.

    Thursday, DH is gone from 4 to 7. I am home in the afternoon from 2 to 3:30 until I have to pick up kiddos from school. I plan on getting a chicken and spinach casserole ready that afternoon so after I pick up the kiddos from school, I can pop it into the oven and we can work on chores or play while it is getting ready. DH can eat after his meeting. Plus, there will be leftovers for lunches or I can freeze the extra for another time.

    Friday night is Fun Night at our school and it is supposed to be a cool, fall day. Thursday night I will get things together for soup in the crock pot and it will be ready for Friday night for an early and fast meal before we head to the school. My plan is ham and bean soup but I have ingredients for beef veggie, too.

    I plan my meals out by the week and I am purposeful in spending 30 minutes at night preparing for the next day. Either getting meat out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge and getting a salad put together or putting together my crock pot so it is ready to go the next morning.

    I looked in my freezer and pantry and for this week's meals, I needed buns, lettuce, celery, spinach and some ricotta cheese. Everything else I had on hand.

  • Mon, Sep 20 2010 10:14 AM In reply to

    • rolo
    • Top 50 Contributor
    • Joined on Wed, Apr 4 2007
    • Michigan
    • Posts 1,932

    Re: Meals on a Hectic Schedule

     We try to cook ahead for the week and sometimes for the month.  A simple way to "get ahead" is to prepare a double amount when cooking the initial meal, then you can put it in the fridge and have your "fast food dinner" ready to nuke later in the week.  We also use the "make a mix" cookbook and have certain mixes on hand for a quick desset or biscuits or pancakes.  Crockpot dinners and a sandwich/soup dinner also make for a good dinner with little time involved.

    Many busy folks don't think they have the time to plan ahead/cook ahead--but it is easy to find the extra time and it certainly is worth the savings over too much take out, restaurants, or buying processed convenience at the store.  



    "People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost." ~~ Dalai Lama XIV -

  • Mon, Sep 20 2010 11:15 AM In reply to

    • Lee
    • Top 75 Contributor
    • Joined on Thu, Jul 23 2009
    • Texas
    • Posts 1,356

    Re: Meals on a Hectic Schedule

    We are one of those hectic families. I get home from work at 5:30 if I don't make any stops. DS has workout and gets in about 6:15 and DH works nights and leaves the house about 9:30 p.m. Our rule is dinner together at the table at 7:00. In order to accomplish this I do a menu for the week on Saturday evening while watching TV and the prep work on Sunday afternoons. For example, we are having tacos Wed. night so I chopped lettuce and tomatoes and browned and seasoned the meat yesterday. We are having chicken and rice tonight so I boiled the chicken, cut it up and saved the broth while I was browning the meat for the tacos. I cut up a bowl of fresh fruit to set out with each meal until its gone. I also have a lasagna in the freezer that I will put in the fridge tonight to thaw and pop it in the oven for supper tomorrow night. Obviously our weeknight meals are of the quicker variety. I save our time intensive meals for Saturday and Sunday. Knowing what I'm fixing and having alot of it ready before I get home in the evenings cuts down on alot of stress.

  • Tue, Sep 21 2010 10:12 AM In reply to

    Re: Meals on a Hectic Schedule

    My family has a hectic schedule as well.  DH gets home with one child at 4:20 p.m.  I get home at 5:00 and three days a week DS gets home at 5:20.  DH leaves again at 5:15 p.m. for his part time night coaching job and returns home at 9:00 p.m.

    Monday evenings are very hectic with DS having intramurals, gymnastics and scouts.  I usually have freezer sandwiches which can be warmed in the microwave and with a side of fresh fruit and a glass of milk is a meal.  When he gets home at night, there's usually popcorn or leftovers for him too.

    I always have whole wheat bread and peanut butter, if there's not anything cooked for DH then he has a quick sandwich with milk and fruit and then will eat when he comes home.

    Over the weekends, I plan more elaborate meals and will use those leftovers throughout the week.  In addition, I try and have a couple of meals that are crockpot too.  In the summer, we had one day that was a salad night.  I had various toppings chopped to add to a bed of lettuce and home made rolls or biscuits with a piece of fruit.  In the winter we'll probably switch to a soup night.  I also try and have a breakfast for dinner meal. 

    I switch up how I shop depending upon the activities and schedules. Some months it's a major shopping trip, while other months I shop weekly.

    It is so much easier to know whats for dinner and how long it will take to finish.  Then to come home and fake it.

    We're adding more beans to our diet to help with grocery costs and for added health benefits.  In order to make the bean meals economical, I do the dried beans and that does entail more prep time.

  • Tue, Sep 21 2010 2:55 PM In reply to

    Re: Meals on a Hectic Schedule

    In the winter we'll probably switch to a soup night.  I also try and have a breakfast for dinner meal. 

    Soups and breakfasts are also staples for a hectic night at our house. I can make french toast and eggs pretty quickly and then serve sliced fruit with the meal. If we have some sausage, I add that to the meal. Or egg scramble (like omletts but not as pretty, LOL) with chopped veggies, meat and cheese. A crock pot of soup creates several leftover lunches for the week for DH and I or I freeze half and have a quick meal another time. Served with rolls or a grilled cheese sandwich, soup is a great fast meal for us.

    Spending $20 (or more) on fast food only to get it home to a cranky house of kids and find out that it is cold and greasy is what did it for DH and me. No more!

  • Tue, Sep 21 2010 3:55 PM In reply to

    Re: Meals on a Hectic Schedule

    mamasjob, could you post the recipe for the spinach and chicken casserole??  Tia...Liz.

  • Tue, Sep 21 2010 7:01 PM In reply to

    • gayla50
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Mon, Sep 24 2007
    • Western North Carolina
    • Posts 8,491

    Re: Meals on a Hectic Schedule

    when life gets so busy I love the crockpots all the ways .

    I also keep things in the roaster oven ( it really just a huge crockpot ) 

    there alot of time I  dont see DH all day he comes in at night .



    Officially Recognized Stretchpert in Frugal Food and Cooking and in Slow Cooker Foods

    Purpose is what gives life a meaning
  • Wed, Sep 22 2010 7:40 PM In reply to

    Re: Meals on a Hectic Schedule

    I work a weird schedule Thu/Fri= 12-8 and Sat/Sun 4pm-4am I am a single parent of an 18 year old college student who can cook :O) this helps she is going to a local college & is home by early afternoon so she can pull out anything frozen to thaw to be cooked 6pm & she will usually start it before I get home. 

    On Thur & Fri we usually do grab something pre-made from the freezers (Baked Ziti/Taco Meat/Enchilada burritos/ etc)

    On Sat I cook a meal that will be eaten for Saturday night and Sunday. (Like Meatloaf)

    On Monday/Tuesday/ Wed we eat food that is hard for me to transport to work but I also make & freeze extra meals on these day for use on Thu-Sun :O)






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  • Wed, Sep 22 2010 8:41 PM In reply to

    Re: Meals on a Hectic Schedule

    I totally agree with having a plan!  I plan my meals for the week based on what I have in the pantry/freezer and the store sales.  I generally know what the week ahead looks like (for ex-soccer practice on Tues & Thurs nights or DH having a class on Thurs).  That helps me figure out what to make on which nights.  I try every week to make at least one thing I can double for the freezer so I have a ready made meal for the future.  When a day comes that is so busy that I have no idea when I'll find time to make a meal, I grab something in the freezer.  Happens every 2 weeks or so.  I gradually have a little stock developing.

    I also tend to pick up frozen pizzas when they are on sale-that can be a quick and easy meal when I need it.  Also, I tend to have some time during the day sometimes so I *try* to get dinner started or prepped before we actually reach the crunch time.  Or for the following day if I know it's going to be a busy one.

    I think this is one of those areas where organization really pays.  I truly believe one of the most important parts of my day is making sure each morning that I know what my plan is for dinner that night.  Otherwise I totally scramble later!

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